He has won and set course records at staged races, ultra-distance trail races and mountain runs. And now K-Way athlete Andre ‘AJ’ Calitz can add ‘World Record holder’ to his impressive sporting credentials.
On Saturday K-Way athlete Andre ‘AJ’ Calitz ascended Table Mountain’s Platteklip Gorge an incredible 14.5 times in 12 hours; that’s 10,257 vertical metres. This exceeds the previous record of 10,060 metres and will etch Calitz’ name on the World Record listing for ‘Greatest vertical height climbing stairs in 12 hours’.
“I just focussed on one lap at a time and thought, it is just 14 and a bit, that bit turned out to be about ¾ way to the top,” said Calitz.
What makes Calitz’s feat even more remarkable is that this record, which will take a few months to be verified by Guinness World Records, was attempted on a gnarly, rocky trail that snakes up the front face of South Africa’s Table Mountain. The 800 double-sized steps of Platteklip Gorge ascends 700 metres and is exposed to the elements. This is a far cry from past records set in building stairwells with their handrails and regular, evenly-spaced stairs.
“It is really difficult to get a rhythm as the steps are very uneven, sometimes even necessitating rock climbing on all fours. The other athletes were amazing, encouraging me every step – even the public got involved when they found out what we were doing.”
As the record is all about accumulated climb, Calitz ascended Platteklip Gorge, ran from the top of the Gorge to the cable station, took the cable car down and then climbed onto a waiting scooter, which took him to the bottom of the Gorge for his next ascent. The few minutes on the scooter gave Calitz time to prepare mentally for the next lap.
Calitz averaged 35 minutes per ascent. To put this into perspective, the Gorge takes most runners and hikers one to two hours to ascend – once. By 17h45 Calitz had completed 14.5 ascents to equal the current World Record. With fifteen minutes remaining, he built a cushion that will certainly thwart athletes aiming to better this record-breaking achievement in the future.
“It is like the difference between a normal marathon and an ultra marathon – the last couple of kilometres are by far the hardest, but luckily the heat subsided in the late afternoon and we could do the last two ascents in the shade,” said Calitz.
“When I broke the current record, I had my coach, Christoff Smit and trail running legend Christiaan Greyling with me, and they urged me to carry on to make sure we have the record and improve it.”
This record-setting run took place during the annual K-Way Plattekip Charity Challenge, which Calitz won in 2012 and 2013 – setting course records each time. The event raises funds for Sinenjongo High School, which is located an impoverished community Cape Town. The community has a high rate of unemployment and is home to a large number of child-headed households.
Funding from the event’s sponsors, together with contributions raised through athlete sponsors, provides salaries for additional English, maths and science teachers as well as a part-time social worker. So far R650,000 has been pledged for the school from the 2014 K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge.
This year the first male up Platteklip Gorge was Oliver Linley and the first female was Courtney Groener, who was given the title of ‘the queen of the mountain.’ Martin Kleynhans and Zuki Dyomfana completed the most laps, with 9 and 7 laps respectively.
Adam Pike, one of the K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge event organisers said: “It was a fantastic day, the mountain had many visitors which made the event somewhat challenging with all the crowds.”
“It was a very successful day. Everyone went out of their way to ensure that the challenges we faced were dealt with and resolved,” concluded Anton de Waal, one of the event organisers of the K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge.
Says Nick Bennett, Head of Marketing for the K-Way brand: “K-Way has been a proud sponsor of the challenge for three years running. Not only is it a wonderful community initiative right on our doorstep, but it is a phenomenal platform to promote an outdoor adventure lifestyle. It is also a pleasure to associate with local outdoor athletes like AJ. Our sponsored athletes help us improve our gear and apparel… and as a bonus we’re able to witness them achieve amazing things outdoors!”
- The history of Cape Union Mart dates back to 1933 when the grandfather of the current Chairman, founded the business on the corner of Corporation and Mostert Street in Cape Town. The third generation of the family now runs the group, with the fourth generation already making their mark.
- K-Way was established in 1981 when Cape Union Mart made its first significant commitment to local manufacturing by acquiring the Hepworths manufacturing operation in order to ensure flexibility and faster production times. This followed Cape Union Mart’s decision in the early 1980’s to secure its own sources of local supply. At this time, Sparks and Ellis, the uniform contracts company within the Cape Union Mart group, was supplying traffic, fire and security forces with garments that were typically produced by outsourced tailoring suppliers.
- Arthur Krawitz, the second generation leader of the business, was affectionately known as “Mr K”. During his time in the business, everybody at Cape Union Mart knew very well that there was only one right way of doing things, and that was Mr K’s way. It was therefore natural to name their locally made range of outdoor and travel clothing after the way in which it is made, the K-Way.
- K-Way today employs almost 190 people, a level that is ahead of DTI targets. K-Way has never retrenched a single staff member which is also part of the Cape Union Mart Group’s employment philosophy.
- Due to high demand the factory is working to capacity and continues to outsource production work to Cut Make and Trim (CMT) operations that collectively employ another 100 staff.
- The K-Way factory’s specialist skills and/or equipment means it is equipped to offer laser cutting, embroidery, sew-free and rain wear seam sealing.
- K-Way scooped the prestigious ‘Best Practice Award’ for showcasing excellence in World Class Manufacturing at the Cape Clothing & Textile Cluster’s AGM in March 2010.
About AJ Calitz:
K-Way athlete Andre ‘AJ’ Calitz began to really make trail-running headlines in 2012 after numerous wins and record-setting runs on challenging courses.
He followed up a superb 2012 season with an even better one in 2013. With a win this past weekend at the three-day AfricanX Trailrun with teammate Bernard Rakudza, AJ is in line for a superb year of racing in 2014.
AJ won a number of local events in 2013, like the Columbia Trail, Matroosberg and MAST Challenge and he also proudly stood on the podium at other one-day and multi-day events like African-X (3rd pair), Namaqua Quest (2nd) and The Otter African Trail (3rd – sub 4h30!). He again won, and set new records, at the Platteklip Charity Challenge (12 summits of Platteklip Gorge between sunrise and sunset – equivalent to more elevation gain than the height of Everest from sea level!) and Red Bull LionHeart (in November – repeat win).
Last year, for the first time, he made his foray onto the international circuit. The first event he entered was Zegama, in Spain – a highly competitive mountain race. With 14 kilometres to go and racing in about 6th place, an unlucky fall resulted in a gash to his knee – right down to the bone. The race doctor was unable to patch the wound (staples were required) and withdrew him from the race. AJ returns to Zegama in May 2014.
Three weeks after Zegama AJ lined up at the start of the 100-kilometre Verdon Canyon Challenge in France. He took the lead 60 kilometres into the race and despite taking a wrong turn at the 80km mark, he still won the race.
Although Calitz has only been a trail running competitor for a few years, his pedigree is impressive. He has been a multiple All Africa Triathlon Champion, South African Duathlon and Triathlon Champion and South African Cycling Champion. He also holds silver medals for Two Oceans and Comrades finishes.
Calitz on Table Mountain